Healthy Falcons advance to Big Rock final
Football: High-ranked HTA and Foothills to meet in Big Rock Conference title bout
Wednesday, Oct 25, 2017 10:43 am
The two-itime defending champs have climbed off the canvas after being knocked down and are ready to take another run at a provincial high school football championship.
“We’ve got our offence back – all of our starters are back,” said Foothills Falcons head coach Darren Olson. “We are starting to get the timing back and we’ve open up our playbook a little bit.”
The Falcons advanced to the Big Rock Conference final by charming the Rundle College Cobras 36-7 in the league’s semifinal Friday at the Comp.
The past two seasons, the Falcons put some losses on the ledger before going on a hot-streak to win a pair of Division II provincial titles.
“Every year we have had losses that have righted the ship – opened the coaches’ eyes,” Olson said.
However, they have a major heavyweight in front of them next week.
The Falcons and the undefeated Holy Trinity Academy Knights will square off in the Big Rock Conference final Oct. 27 at Knights Field.
Cobra coach Brent Hargreaves will be glad to not have to play an Okotoks high school team again. Rundle has lost twice to the Falcons (38-6 and 36-7) and also 16-7 to the Knights.
He admits the Knights were banged up and keeping things close to the vest as they were playing out the string of the Big Rock regular season against the smaller Cobra squad.
“HTA is big and physical a lot of big bodies and they are tough to get around,” Hargreaves said. “Foothills has a little bit more team-speed, so it is really tough to say who would win.”
He got a bird’s eye of how good the Falcons can be.
“We knew we were going to be facing some big athletic athletes and we had to execute our game plan,” Hargreaves said. “I thought we did a pretty good job defensively the opening quarter, but we had trouble stopping their big-play players.”
Foothills took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Tyson Pitcher hit a focused Tanner Young who turned around and snared an 18-yard TD pass with a Cobra defender coiled around him midway through the opening quarter.
They doubled their lead on their next drive when sure-handed Josh Groome snagged a pass in the middle and then turned up field for a 40-yard TD.
Foothills would all but put the game away when Pitcher hit slotback Keaton Neish in the numbers for a three-yard TD pass just before the half to give Foothills a 21-0 lead.
The touchdown was set up by a nice catch by Falcons halfback Payton Price for a 32-yard gain to the three-yard line.
Price made it 28-0 when he exploded for an 80-yard TD run in the opening minutes of the second half.
The Falcons got a burst of confidence when Payton Burbank – the all-everything back of last year’s championship team – got to the outside, broke several tackles and didn’t stop until he was in the end zone.
Burbank, who has been injured for much of the season and struggled in the first half against Rundle, was back to his former self in the final 24 minutes.
“I’m feeling 100 per cent, this was my best game so far,” said Burbank, who finished with 120 yards in total offence. “Our O-line played really well, I got some key blocks for a TD and Price ran well.
“The whole team ran as a unit and that’s how we win.”
The Cobras got on the scoreboard late in the fourth quarter when Jacob Graham caught a Christian Gruending pass and scampered in for a 23-yard TD.
It was the first TD in nearly two games scored on the Falcons. The Foothills stingy D has given up only 10 points in the last two games.
“Our defence has come a long way – we are starting to get our zones down,” said Falcons defensive back Callum Minor.
“Our d-backs, me and (Matt) Tailby the past two games we’ve been aggressive and we have stopped a lot of outside routes. We are looking a lot better on defence.”
Young defensive stalwart Carson Remus continued to impress in his rookie high school season.
As for the Big Rock final, the Falcons have a whole new respect for the Knights after losing 14-10 Sept. 29 at the Comp.
“We came into that game too prideful,” said Burbank, adding HTA deserves the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage. “But we have started to play like a unit. Pitcher came back, I came back, our o-line is giving Pitcher time.”
The Knights are the no. 3 ranked team in the province, the Falcons are no. 5. Unfortunately due to geography, one of the team’s season will come to an end next week.
“We get another chance – this time it’s for a Big Rock championship and that’s a big deal to us,” Olson said.
Kick-off for the Okotoks showdown is 7 p.m. at Knights Field.